BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Teachers from across Alabama recently gathered in Birmingham to discuss a troubling statewide trend. According to The Southern Education Foundation, 40 percent of Alabama’s students failed to graduate in 2010. Alabama Public Television is working hard to raise awareness and combat the problem. Through an American Graduate grant, APT hosted a teacher town hall event for teachers to come together to discuss the dropout rate and raise solutions.
More than 50 teachers from around the state spent their Sunday afternoon discussing an issue that can impact entire communities. An extremely high number of Alabama students don’t graduate school and teachers say something needs to be done.
“You just look at the numbers and see the huge rate of students that are deciding to drop out and it seems earlier and earlier that it’s starting to happen,” says Ashley Smith, a teacher at World Alive Academy.
Smith isn’t the only teacher who believes students are dropping out at a much younger age than before. Several other education officials agree that the best way to prevent dropouts is to reach children when they’re young.
“I think a lot of it deals with the issues of them getting behind at an early age, probably not having a lot of support either at home, from family, or even at school, says Alisa Smiley, Graduation Coach at Selma High School.
“Really, I think that to really help out with the drop-out rate it really, really starts in the elementary school setting,” says Jerme Kirk Taylor, a teacher at Hillview Elementary School. “I think early childhood education is very, very important. Even going farther into the pre-k programs and I just really, really think that if we had a pre-k program to catch the kids early, before they get to the middle or high school setting, tell them the importance of their education, tell them how great they are.”
Teachers were able to use APT’s town hall event to speak freely about what could be done to keep kids in school. Many agreed that effective and engaging teachers would have the greatest impact on keeping students motivated.
“I think that we can incorporate activities in school to engage students more so that learning isn’t so passive,” says Deidre Swoop, a teacher at Oakwood Adventist Academy. “I think that if students are engaged or challenged, I think that they will be more likely to remain in school if they feel they are involved in the learning process.”
A majority of teachers also agreed that “teamwork” is really what’s needed to combat the problem.
“I think like with children, I think everybody should be involved,” says Smiley. “The churches, parents, teachers, even other students tutoring each other. I think we should all just come together to tackle the issue.”
Teachers who attended the event found the conversation to be enlightening and hope to continue this dialogue back in their own districts.